British firms will need to employ foreign tradesmen such as electricians, bricklayers and butchers after Brexit because of shortages. The country will also be reliant on migrant car mechanics, physiotherapists, and foreign language teachers. These occupations, along with others such as lab technicians, pharmacists and meat hygiene inspectors, are set to be included in a list of jobs that qualify for work visa eligibility. They are identified in a review by the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) published today (Sept 29).
The review recommends that the occupations should be added to the official Home Office Shortage Occupations List (SOL) to make it easier for migrants to apply for work visas to fill vacancies. The existing SOL also includes engineers, programmers, web designers, medical practitioners, artists, dancers and nurses.
The MAC review predicts that when free movement of people ends after Brexit on January 1, 2021, several sectors within the economy will face manpower pressures. It particularly highlights shortages in the care sector and recommends numerous care sector jobs be added to the SOL, including senior care workers, residential, day and domiciliary care managers and proprietors. The review warns that low wages in social care mean most frontline occupations in the sector are ineligible for the skilled worker route. It calls on the sector to make jobs more attractive to UK workers by increasing salaries rather than relying on migrants, particularly during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Care sector stakeholders have predicted staff shortages will put huge strain on both health and social care as the British population ages. One projection is that the 65 and over age group will increase from 10.2 million in 2018 to 14.1 million by 2035, requiring a further 580,000 jobs. Another predicts that the 75 and over demographic is set to grow by 50 percent and would require a further 800,000 jobs.
Immigration specialist Yash Dubal, Director of A Y & J Solicitors, is calling for the MAC to recommend reclassifying care workers and home carers as medium skilled workers, a move that will allow care homes to fill vacancies with overseas workers.
He said: “It would be greatly welcomed if the Government, with a recommendation from the MAC, was to reclassify care workers and home carers up from the lower-skilled classification they currently hold. They could then be added to the SOL and foreign workers could be sponsored at a lower salary of £20,480, rather than the minimum £25,600 needed under the new points-based system. This would then become affordable for the care industry which could remain competitive and continue providing care for those who need it the most and who get little government support.
“If the current system remains, the care sector is in danger of collapse due to rising costs and lack of the right staff. In April last year one of Britain’s largest care home groups, Four Seasons Health Care, went into administration and we could see more.”
Mr Dubal also believes the numbers of migrants needed in the UK could increase after Brexit.
He explains: “This report shows that there continues to be shortages of skilled workers in around 70 professions in the UK, with more being added. Only a few have been removed so the trend is towards a skills shortage, not surplus. In order to keep the economy strong and globally competitive, those workers have to come from somewhere, and if they are not in the UK, they will come from overseas.
“At A Y & J Solicitors, we have actually seen a rise in the number of skilled workers from overseas applying for UK work visas, not a reduction, and I expect that trend to continue.
“Unfortunately, there will be a lot of job losses due to coronavirus and its effects, but these will be concentrated in the retail, leisure, travel and hospitality sectors, not those on the SOL. People may retrain of course, but in the interim employers will look internationally to fill their vacancies.”
Occupations on the SOL are subject to different, more favourable, migration arrangements, enabling employers to access a wider pool of suitable workers, more quickly. Candidates from overseas applying for jobs in these fields are eligible for work visas under the skilled worker route.
The MAC provides independent, evidence-based advice on migration issues to the Government, and was commissioned to consider what medium-skill occupations should be included ahead of the introduction of a points-based immigration system on 1 January 2021.
The review also recommends that several agri-food sector occupations be added to a Northern Ireland-only SOL, as after Brexit, firms in Northern Ireland will face competition from those across the border in Ireland which will retain access to unrestricted labour from the EU.